Studio Visit - Pan Pottery

by BRÆR Studio

Wood fired vase in Pan Pottery studio


Spending time with Gus and his family was a truly special time for us to reflect on the importance of living simply and filling up your life with all of the good things.

Gus, Bridget and their two children live on a special piece of land in Lake Wyeba just outside Noosa covered in ancient, significant trees and wild flowers. The Pan Pottery studio is a handmade building sitting amongst the trees alongside a large Catenery Arch kiln adopted from a noborigama kiln.


Gus, Finn and Azzmin in the Pan Pottery studio



Gus started his journey into the world of pottery on a trip to India where he was inspired to learn the humble craft. He lived in a small village with a highly revered pottery family and trained under the master for 6 months. During his apprenticeship, his life was simple and disciplined. He spent every day with the other potters mostly doing the simple task of centering the clay on the wheel. He was eventually allowed to make chai cups towards the end of his time as a student. 

Pan Pottery kick wheel in the stduio

Shaggy Pea flower in Pan Pottery vase in the studio


Pan Pottery mugs dryingBeing a student for many months in the village, living with the other potters and mastering his skills in every aspect of wood firing and clay meant he made a strong connection to the people and the land there. Gus' pottery style is derived from learning to fire in a wood fired kiln called an Anagama, an ancient type of pottery kiln brought to Japan from China via Korea in the 5th century. 

An anagama (a Japanese term meaning "cave kiln") consists of a firing chamber with a firebox at one end and a flue at the other.

We were honoured to be invited to participate in a wood firing and learn first hand the labour and energy used to create the special works of art Gus creates at Pan Pottery. Wood firing creates textures and glazes that an electric kiln could never achieve.



The fire, ash and their location in the kiln dictates how the piece looks. The wood fire kiln requires skill, intuition, patience and hard physical labour during the days leading up to the firing as well as throughout the firing process. Many hours are spent carefully packing the kiln so that every free bit of space is used whilst allowing the fire and ash to flow throughout the kiln. There are many days of cutting firewood and then slowly stoking the fire to have it reach the desired temperature.

It is hard to explain the feelings that are evoked tending to a kiln full of precious artworks. The pressure is akin to giving birth; the waves of intense heat from the fire are like contractions moving faster as the intensity builds.


The fire is powerful and the desire to master tending to her is addictive.


Gus taught us 3 women, Yaz, Azzmin & Tess how to throw the wood into the fire box of the kiln and how to watch the flames in the reflection of the studio glass doors coming out of the top of the chimney. We learnt how to intuitively feed the fire the right amount of timber to keep the temperature rising in the kiln, a fine balance that took us some time to tune into.


Gus checking the cones in the wood fire kiln

Stoking the fire in the Kiln with fresh wood  Fresh hard wood in to the kiln to get it up to temperature

Tess places some wood into the fire box with thick leather gloves on.

A few things didn't go to plan during the firing as we were finding it difficult to raise the kiln temperature above 1250 degrees.  

Taking notes on the firing process



We stayed awake all night tending to the kiln, trying different techniques as instructed by Gus. Gus took a short nap in the studio nearby after being awake for days prior preparing the kiln. We were left in charge of taking care of the kiln over the following few hours. Feeling extremely nervous, we hoped to at least maintain the temperature in the kiln until Gus woke up.

Our energy began to fade by 3am and the temperature was not building as fast as we had hoped, we needed to pump ourselves up to be able to stay awake. In between feeding the kiln we listened to silly "fire" songs while giggling and dancing around the kiln - it was working to keep our spirits high.
We noticed we were mastering the technique we had adopted of placing smaller logs of wood into the fire box every minute in time with each other, on both sides of the fire box. We couldn't contain our excitement when we managed to get the kiln up to 1365 degrees - cone 13.
Gus came out of the studio so happy to hear we had reached the desired temperature, earlier than expected too. We filled any cracks in the exterior of the kiln with cloths soaked in mud from the lake nearby and cried a few happy tears as the sun rose for the day. We all went to bed with big smiles on our faces.
Wood firing is a marathon of love, surrender and courage. The amount of energy that goes in to each work is incredible. The details that the fire leaves on the pots are really special. Now we know first-hand how very special they are.
Kiln reaching the optimum temperature

The temperature gauge showing 1365 degrees!

three proud women got the temperature of the kiln to the desired heat."Mudding up" the kiln once it reached temperature

Gus mudding up the final bricks of the kiln.


The final mud to seal up the kiln while it enters the cooling phase

Shop the full range of Pan Pottery ceramics online now here.






Words by Azzmin. Images by Yaz Ward.